An overview of the EponaShoe
The EponaShoe allows the hoof to function much like a barefoot, but with the protection of a shoe. This is down to two main factors working in conjunction – the material they are made from, and the shape and design of the shoe.
MATERIAL: The hoof is designed to be a flexible structure, enabled by one of its many components, hoof keratin. As a barefoot horse lands, his hoof distorts in a 3-dimensional way which allows the hoof to absorb shock and also helps in adjusting balance, to allow for efficient travel over even slightly unlevel ground. The shoe is made of man-made polymers, which mechanically behave in a similar way to hoof keratin – they are flexible and absorb concussion. By attaching such a material to the horses hoof, it does not impede the natural ability of the hoof to ‘flex’ and perform it’s proper function, and will also therefore not increase concussion and pressure, as steel - which is 30 times stiffer than keratin and man-made plastics - and other metals would.
The shoe uses 3 types of polymer to achieve the features needed for it to work. The main ‘body’ of the shoe will hold nails, and also give a good surface for bonding glue, the toe and heel ‘pads’ provide increased wear resistance and some extra shock absorption, and the softer frog and sole pad give support whilst avoiding pressure points. There are also small ‘stiffeners’ inside the shoe, to reinforce the back two nail holes and eliminate the shoe from ‘flip-flopping’ at the heels. All of these features also mean that an EponaShoe will wear easily as well as a metal shoe, and can often be fitted for a second shoeing cycle.
LIGHTWEIGHT: A pair of steel shoes weighs 0.8 kg, a pair of EponaShoes (the same size) weighs 0.6 kg. The horse will therefore move with more natural biomechanics, which also reduces injury risk. ‘An ounce off the hoof is worth a pound off the back’ as the old saying goes!
BREAKOVER: The bevel at the toe of the EponaShoe can be easily adjusted by the farrier – however, better still, the nature of the material here means it can be easily and quickly worn by the horse to where he needs it. This makes for a more comfortable, natural and efficient stride pattern and length. Once the horse has worn this to suit, the shoe will have minimal further wear here, as the horse is now breaking over as he needs to, not as he has been forced to by the constraints of a steel shoe and the ‘best guess’ as to placement of breakover.
GRIP: As a horse lands, it needs a little ‘slip’ to avoid jarring and help reduce concussion. The tread on the shoe has been designed with the use of high speed cameras, to allow the correct ‘grip/slip’ balance of the foot as it lands and breaks over.
FROG SUPPORT: Correct frog function is vital for shock absorption and circulation. Circulation brings nutrition for a healthier foot, and also has an important role to play in ‘damping’ concussion through haemodynamics. All of the main shock absorbing mechanisms in the horses foot - particularly the digital cushion - are above the frog and in the palmar area of the hoof, along with the mechanoreceptor nerves. As a traditional shoe lifts the frog off of the ground, the horse’s ability to absorb concussion correctly is therefore seriously compromised, along with the sensory information it gathers from the mechanoreceptors regarding hoof placement. This often leads to the frog either descending to seek the support of the ground, with the horses weight then having a crushing effect on the internal hoof structures, or the frog atrophying through lack of stimulation, meaning support and concussion have to be transferred to other areas not designed to solely cope with this. Healthy frogs and digital cushions are also important to keep good distance between the heel bulbs, helping to prevent contracted heels.
SOLE SUPPORT: Horses in nature often have their feet packed with mud and debris, and it is likely that this is meant to happen for several reasons. It provides some protection, extra cushioning and shock absorption. It will allow the sole to help support the weight of the horse, and provide even weight distribution across it - this correct pressure is a stimulus for the sole to become stronger and thicker. Evidence suggests that solar support also helps to hold the internal structures of the foot – particularly the pedal bone – at the correct angle for optimum function, which is vital for strong healthy feet. Whilst the EponaShoe has a built in sole support pad, this can be enhanced by packing the foot – more specific information about this can be found on the EponaShoe website.
The wide ‘webb’ of the shoe, along with the frog and solar support, therefore allow the whole foot to bear the weight of the horse, and each of the structures to perform their correct function, all in balance with each other. A steel shoe will create peripheral loading, meaning the weight of the horse is solely suspended on the wall (and by transference the laminae and coronary band) – it is likely that these structures are not designed to cope with this, and may begin to deteriorate.
NAIL ON, GLUE ON, OR A COMBINATION BOTH
The shoe can be straight nailed on, just like a normal shoe. However, glue can also be used for a variety of reasons. Glue will provide another shock absorbing, flexible layer, and can help with attachment to weak or broken up walls. It can also be used to build height either uniformly, or selectively to adjust foot balance if necessary. Because the glue also behaves mechanically similarly to hoof keratin, it avoids problems sometimes associated with building height with other materials, which can often have a crushing effect and make the problem worse in the long term. A helpful way to think of this is of the shoe (and glue) as a vehicle which will allow the horse to grow a stronger, more balanced hoof because it will not put any restrictions on him doing so. Just glue-on is really only an option for horses on restricted exercise and turnout, but glue can lessen the amount of nails needed, if nail damage is a problem. Generally 2 – 4 nails for hacking, showjumping and dressage, but to go endurance riding, eventing or similar, you will need 6 -7 nails!
FOR PERFORMANCE AND THERAPUETIC REASONS
Originally designed as a performance shoe across the disciplines, all the reasons above also make the EponaShoe a great therapeutic shoe for conditions such as laminitis, navicular, thin soles, flat feet, underrun heels, and anything arthritic or needing minimal concussion, such as ringbone, djd, sidebone, or even pedal bone fractures.
The shoes come in many sizes, are easily adjustable, and your usual farrier can fit them with no special tools required. We have a shoeing guide, information DVD, and a strong support and information service. They also come with a carbide tip (for lots of roadwork) or stud mount option for horses competing on turf, as well as plain or with a mesh pad, if you don’t want to pack the feet – this stops debris working up under the shoe.